WIMBLEDON, England — Ladies Day at Wimbledon. Here are five thoughts…
• We’ve seen this Serena Williams movie before. But that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. In her first two Wimbledon matches, Serena looked her age, struggling to move around the court and struggling against two players ranked outside the top 100. Serena was seeded No. 11,,and between the Coco Gauff emergence and the salon’s fondness for new No. 1, Ash Barty, Serena was almost a forgotten woman during Week One.
• Then, as if she stepped into a phone booth—the red British kind, that still exist—she emerged and did a convincing impersonation of, well, Serena Williams. Having beaten two seeds in her last two matches, Serena played brilliantly today—perhaps her best match of 2019—holding off unseeded but worthy challenger Alison Riske on Centre Court 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. She served well (19 aces). She moved surprisingly well. She competed well, as ever. She had lapses but played through them. She still has two more matches to go, as well as the distraction (welcome distraction?) of mixed doubles. But Serena wins the quarter of death, she heads to the semifinals—a round she won here the last 10 times she’s made it—and this has the distinct whiff of major singles title No. 24.
• Spare a thought for Ali Riske, pride of Pittsburgh and one of the sunnier presences in the sport. The closest thing you’ll find to a the endangered species of Grass-Court Specialist, Riske won a pair of titles coming in to Wimbledon; she then won three straight three-set matches last week, showing great courage. On Monday, she scored the biggest win of her career, taking out top-seed Ash Barty in three sets. And today, Riske had a chance at an even bigger score, a takedown of the Mighty Serena on Centre Court. And she came close. After reeling off three straight games to take the second set, she was right in this match. She will likely recall the next few games as a series of missed opportunities. But that shouldn’t cloud her memories of this tournament. She gets married on July 20 and can turn her attention to that. But she ought to take a final bow as she leaves here.
• Simona Halep is no longer the world’s No.1 player, a jacket she wore to start the year. But she is a slick mover, a crisp ballstriker, a true athlete and an adult. She brought all to bear today on Court No. 1. The highest seed remaining at No. 7, Halep fell behind 1-4 to Zhang Shaui of China. Then she played authoritatively, running out the set in a tiebreak and then running out the match 7-6, 6-1. Sentiment will be on Serena’s side, but Halep—the only other quarterfinalist with a Grand Slam singles title to her name—has a real chance to add a Wimbledon trophy to her shelf.
• Less than a week ago, Elina Svitolina lost the first set to Russia’s Margarita Gasparyan and was down a break, 3-4. This would have marked still another disappointing for Svitolina, a top-five player still awaiting a real breakthrough. Deep in the second set, Gasparyan was overcome by cramps and Svitolina won by retirement. She has made the most of the reprieve. Since then, she’s won three matches including a straight-set effort today against Karolina Muchova, 7-5, 6-4. Svitolina is now in the semis, her best ever showing at a Grand Slam.
• Barbora Strycova might have been considering retirement at age 33 coming into this event, but she is most certainly reconsidering after her performance here. After Serena, Strycova took Centre Court and took down the Great British Hope Jo Konta. She was trailing 4-1 then promptly ran off the next 13 games. This is her first major semifinal and a career result for her. She’s also alive in the doubles, trying to become the first player not named Williams to win singles and doubles at a major this decade. On the other hand, if you told Serena Williams she would have to play Barbora Strycova to reach the Wimbledon final, you suspect she’d giddily sign up for that.